Notre Dame football will face the University of South Carolina Gamecocks in the Gator Bowl this Friday, December 30th. With the Gamecocks fresh off back-to-back wins over two top-10 programs, the Irish need to excel in a few areas to secure the victory.
Notre Dame football: Contain Spencer Rattler
After struggling to start his collegiate career, Spencer Rattler has been impressive over the past few games. Out of high school, Rattler ranked as the 11th-best prospect in the nation and the top quarterback in his class. He went to Oklahoma and struggled before ending up at South Carolina, where he has since started to turn things around.
Spencer has had some career games as of late, in particular against SEC rival Tennessee in his penultimate regular season game. He threw for 438 yards completing a ridiculous 81.1% of his passes on the day. Rattler also tossed six touchdowns with zero interceptions and truly dominated Tennessee from start to finish. To win this game, the Irish need to contain Rattler and apply some pressure in the pocket.
Due to NFL draft preparations, the defensive front will have to step up with Isaiah Foskey sitting out. Look for Jordan Botelho or Junior Tuihalamaka to get a chance to show what they can do against a solid SEC offensive line. The Irish secondary should hold up fine, with freshman All-American Benjamin Morrison leading the way.
Notre Dame football: Steady quarterback play
The Irish haven’t had consistency at the quarterback spot all year outside of who was manning the position. With Drew Pyne, it was a guess as to which version you’d get on any given night. He had some awesome games and also some downright brutal performances. Having someone that can make the right reads and move the chains is all the Irish need, given their outstanding run game.
Buchner hasn’t been able to find his groove passing the ball, as he was behind Jack Coan all of last year and was injured in game two this season. However, that injury allowed him plenty of time in the press box with coaches reading defenses and learning the game. Hopefully that will pay dividends for the still very talented quarterback moving forward.
I’d also love to get a look at Steve Angeli, regardless of what happens with Buchner in the game. Even if Buchner is playing out of his mind, Angeli deserves to show what he can do and get some actual in-game experience. Being the backup all year to Drew Pyne, his services weren’t required. Seeing what Notre Dame football has in the young quarterback could be vital moving into the next couple of seasons.
With the talent on this roster and how great the running backs are, the Irish quarterbacks don’t need to be game-changers in this one. It should be enough for the win if they do their jobs and accurately make the right reads.
Notre Dame football: Continue dominant special teams play
Thanks to new coach Brian Mason, Notre Dame has had a phenomenal year from the special teams unit. The Irish have blocked an outrageous 7 punts on the year and are alone at the top in that statistic. Not far behind, though, are the Gamecocks with 5 blocked punts. If the Irish can win the special teams battle regarding field position and big plays, the team will be in great shape to get the win.
The gamble to bring in Jon Sot and Blake Grupe paid off greatly, as both had big time success with Notre Dame football. Sot and the Irish were 25th in net yards this year, while South Carolina was 5th. However, the Irish did have 3 fewer touchbacks and fewer opponent punt return yards. It’s not often you think that special teams could be the deciding factor in a game, but with two elite units, that could very well be the case.
If the Irish win the quarterbacks and special teams battle, they’ll easily come away with this victory. It won’t be nearly as simple as that, though, as both teams are missing some key players. Nonetheless, fans are in for a great game between two excellent teams looking to build momentum for next season. Go, Irish!